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'He Was Making Inroads And Certainly Was One We Were Considering' - O'Neill On Ireland's Injury Worries

'He Was Making Inroads And Certainly Was One We Were Considering' - O'Neill On Ireland's Injury Worries
By PJ Browne Updated

Martin O'Neill was coy yesterday evening on the subject of his contract as Ireland manager, though he did say that he and FAI Chief Executive John Delaney will be meeting in the 'not too distant future'.

O'Neill's contract runs out after the European Championships, but for the moment, his mind is firmly set on the tournament.

As the club season comes to a close and the trip to France nears - it's just 47 days until Ireland's opening game against Sweden - injury worries have started to increase for O'Neill.

Seamus Coleman currently has a hamstring injury. While, at the weekend, O'Neill's goalkeeping options took another hit when Shay Given picked up a groin injury while playing for Stoke against Man City. Rob Elliot had already been ruled out for the long-term after sustaining an ACL injury against Slovakia. It had been hoped Given would be in for a run of games towards the end of the season. The status of his injury still uncertain, that possibility is now up in the air.

Speaking ahead of his appearance on TV3's coverage of last night's Champions League semi-final between Man City and Real Madrid, Martin O'Neill expressed his disappointment regarding Given's injury.

Shay - I think first of all it was unfortunate with the young goalkeeper at Stoke [Jack Butland] getting injured. But obviously it was an opportunity for Shay to come in. You felt then that it was going to be a run of games between then and the end of the season which would have been great for him but naturally as a consequence great for us. He has picked up this injury, hopefully it's not too serious.

Seamus McDonagh has been in contact with him and I was going to give him a call in a couple of days to see how he was. If it's not too serious and he can get his place back, who knows the other young goalkeeper might come in and have a great time and curtail Shay's involvement. First of all, hopefully, the injury's not too bad.

Should the 40-year-old Given manage to retain his position as Stoke's number one for the remainder of the season, O'Neill says that does not necessarily make him a certainty to be Ireland's goalkeeper this summer.

I think it's too early to start talking about pole position but I will say this: I think that Darren Randolph has done exceptionally well for us and I think if West Ham had continued into the FA Cup final he would have continued, Bilic had said that he would have stuck with him. That's very unfortunate [West Ham's FA Cup exit]. But he has done very, very well. He's naturally very fit. The injury to young Elliot came at a very bad time for himself. We'll see how we cope and how we develop over the next couple of weeks.

Last month, Ireland had two friendlies - one against Switzerland and the other against Slovakia - which were viewed as opportunities for Martin O'Neill to look at his fringe players. One of those to be given a chance was Alan Judge. The Dubliner had been in superb form for Brentford this season. Just over a fortnight after his Ireland debut against Switzerland, Judge's hopes for being part of the squad this summer were ended when he broke his leg while playing against Ipswich.

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What must add to an already disappointing situation for Judge is that O'Neill says he was definitely in consideration.

Well, naturally I'm very disappointed because he's a really fine little player in really fine form for the last season and a half. He was making inroads and certainly he was one we were considering. He was trying to make an impact, he was doing very well at Brentford and then he gets this injury. I spoke to him a few times just before and after the operation. He seemed groggy the next morning but he's a determined lad. He said he's been given a certain amount of time to recover but will recover before that.

Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE

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